I had you at “addicted”, didn’t I? ;)
Addiction is defined as the fact or condition of being addicted to a particular substance, thing, or activity.
I’m Stefani Blackwell, and I’m a recovering Facebook addict.
For years I had an unhealthy relationship with Facebook. Five years ago, I finally admitted I had a problem and made a change.
I joined Facebook in 2004 when I was in college. It quickly became one of my favorite pastimes, and then spiraled into a a click-hole, “scroll hell” - where I’d get lost. I wasted time and much of myself during those years when “I had to be connected with my friends.”
If I’m not plugged in, then I’m missing out.
It wasn’t just the FOMO (fear of missing out) that was a struggle for me. I found myself unable to find contentment. I constantly wavered between thoughts of I’m happy for you to thoughts of I would be happier if I had, did, was… all the things I was seeing on my media feed.
It took hold of me. I coveted what others had and feasted on the stories I made up in my head about the who, what, when, where, why and hows behind their posts and pictures.
And because I couldn’t have (or be) what my “friends” had (or were), then I needed to make myself feel better about my life. So I posted a photo or made a statement about anything. And I waited. I yearned for validation, attention, and being liked. I wanted all the thumbs up and hearts to satisfy my need to be seen, heard, and loved.
I wanted another person, anywhere, to validate my life - where I’d been, who I had been with, and what I had been doing.
And how did this interfere with my life? Well, this addiction began when I was in college, but it followed me for ten years. I struggled as a young wife and mother, because the “glimpses” into other wives/moms lives wrecked me. The lies got louder and stronger year after year.
I wish I could go on that vacation. I wish Chris took me to that restaurant. If only I had those types of friends who do those types of book clubs/girls’ nights/MLM. I hope my kid plays that sport. I want a house with that backyard and those furnishings.
These cravings entered into my walk with the Lord, because what we think about directly impacts what we pray about.
Soon my prayers began to echo the lies I was feeding myself. I was anxious, depressed, and felt so lonely.
The twisted part of this journey was that my flesh wanted to stay in that place of unrest. I didn’t think I could disconnect.
What if someone somewhere on the planet needed me? Or even worse, what if I miss out on that one social, life update, meeting, sale, playdate, or viral video that everyone’s talking about (i.e. Laurel vs. Yanny)!?
It wasn’t enough for me to “stay connected” with friends. I had to mirror the lives they did, AND I had to be liked by them. Hearts, haha’s, thumbs-up, and emojis - the impulse to check my phone to see who was watching/following/liking me became a natural reflex.
I recognize this topic might cause some of you to feel squirmy. I assure you this blog is not meant to point a finger at anyone. It is meant to be an exercise in growing in vulnerability and accountability.
I wrote this knowing it could challenge some - I wrote it hoping it would change others.
I feel free to write about it, because I have lived it and currently fight it. The war is not over.
Since I am no licensed professional, I could easily be discredited. But my experience tells me the addiction to being liked is a real disorder. And if left ignored or even worse justified, it can be detrimental to our souls.
And if mothers fall prey to this addiction, her children will most likely follow.
Now we get to the heart of this blog. My why behind writing it. I wanted to tackle the lie that we need to be liked in order to be loved. Because if we as mothers cannot wrestle with this particular lie within ourselves, how can we protect and pray for our children when they are faced with that same lie?
I just want him/her/them to like me.
Friends, the irony is that currently, in real time, Jenny and I are grappling with this very topic within our Mother’s Prayer Companion ministry! We’re trying to navigate these muddy waters between being wives/mothers who are present to their families, while also building a strong online presence!
How do we balance personal and virtual presence?
How do we build a community of online mamas who desire to grow in their faith and prayer life, while also encouraging them to unplug from distractions of social media in order to engage in their husband and kids?
Admittedly, there are times I have even put prayer second to blogging, posting, editing, or a conference call - all in the name of Jesus! I’ve also struggled when a post or blog of mine is not liked, or viewed, or commented on.
Even here within the walls of our ministry, just like the interior walls of our hearts, we find ourselves longing to be “liked”. We desperately want to be seen, heard, and validated.
I have learned what we ALL long for and so desperately need - as wives, mothers, professionals, ministry leaders, or missionaries - is Jesus.
And it was only through the grace of Jesus that I saw myself for who I had become. I was given the courage to heal the areas of my life I could not mend on my own.
That lie of missing out and being alone was erased because He entered in and rewrote that message. Disconnected from the toxicity that had me naval-gazing helped me turn my gaze outwards.
When I turned to Jesus, he turned me to His Word. Time and time again He showed me how unlikeable he was during his life. He wasn’t just unlikeable, He was hated. While He had thousands of followers, only a few were His closest companions.
Imagine if Jesus had had a facebook account or instagram presence... in a moment, all those thousands of followers - all those "friends" - unfriended Him. They unliked him. And in the end, He was left with only three companions at foot of his cross. (One of which was his mother.)
When I made the choice to completely delete my social media accounts I was terrified as to who would be my friends?
But to my amazement, God filled in all the gaps. I found community and authenticity and real life connectedness.
And what’s crazy is that I even entered back into the world of social media! When Mother’s Prayer Companion re-launched its new website and blog, I joined Facebook again and entered the world of Instagram. But thanks be to God, I’m not the same person I was before - I’m no longer addicted to being liked.
Disconnecting from social media and inserting authentic relationships and PRAYER helped me break away. Because of my experiences, I rolled up my sleeves and prayed on my knees in a new way with a new intention for my own children.
My prayer for them is that they know they are loved even when they are not liked. My prayer for them is that they will have the power to disconnect from the lies - and the courage to live counter-culturally.
What I want each of my children to know is the validation, connectedness and love they long for can only be found in Jesus. There is no amount of likes, followers or “friends” that can fill the emptiness within.
Dear friends, I extend this same message of truth to you. You are loved simply because you are. (Not because you are liked.)
“...Fear not, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine.”
Isaiah 43:1, ESV